"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

19 February 2013

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things

Mackler, Carolyn.  The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. Candlewick, 2003.

Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex. She lives for television, scarfs junk food, and follows her self-made "Fat Girl Code of Conduct." Her best friend has just moved to Walla Walla. Her new companion, Froggy Welsh IV, has just succeeded in getting his hand up her shirt, and she lives in fear that he’ll look underneath. Then there are the other Shreves: Mom, the successful psychologist and exercise fiend; Dad, a top executive who ogles thin women on TV; and older siblings Anais and Byron, both of them slim and brilliant. Delete Virginia, and the Shreves would be a picture-perfect family. Or so she’s convinced. And then a shocking phone call changes everything. Virginia has to decide whether to help her mother keep her family's perfect image or to begin living for herself.

I started out not liking this book.  Virginia is bossed around by her "perfect" family; she has no friends; she eats to comfort herself.  Her mother is an adolescent psychologist and should, therefore, be a great mom to a teenager, but she's way too concerned about the family's image to be a real parent.  And Virginia has NO backbone.  I only kept reading because 1) I was in the car, listening to the audio version on a longish commute to work, and 2) the narrator is excellent.  I mean, really excellent.

Early on in the book, Perfect Brother Byron gets kicked out of college for date rape and is sent home.  He doesn't get punished; in fact, no one in the family talks about "the incident" at all. He even gets to go to a Yankees playoffs game with his dad.  He is given permission to move to France for the rest of the semester ... it's like his family just wants to sweep the whole thing under the rug.  Meanwhile, Virginia is traumatized by the whole thing and has nowhere to turn because mentioning what's bothering her will ruin the family's reputation.  Argh.

Around Thanksgiving, things change and the story gets much better.  Virginia develops a backbone, first of all, and starts being herself.  And with that backbone comes some self-confidence.  And then she makes friends. And things are better.  My favorite part (aside from the hair dye incident) is when Virginia's dad says something like, "It looks like you've slimmed down," and her response is, "Dad, I don't like it when you talk about my body.  It's not yours to discuss."  Wahoo! 

I thought I wouldn't like this book, but I did.  If you get a chance, try the audio version. :)

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